It would be a mistake to expect an opera if you decide to watch Philidor's Tom Jones. A Broadway musical in rococo drag would be more appropriate. Most of the performance is spoken French, with delightful but hardly profound arias and ensembles. Philidor was a popular composer in his day, and it's easy to see that audiences of the 18th C were just as eager for diversion as audiences of today. The principal singers are far more proficient than their roles require, and the total musical performance does more than justice to the composer's intentions.
As a play, Tom Jones is just a few vignettes from the novel by Fielding, but it tells the heart of the story. The singers look and act their roles effectively, especially Marc Barrard in the role of Mr. Western. The first act is a trifle slow, but the second act becomes both more energetic and funnier, at times hilarious, or at least as hilarious as any modern Broadway musical. It's the stage business that earns my five star rating. If you don't expect Mozart or Handel, you'll very likely enjoy this performance on a balmy, relaxed evening with a glass of good French wine.
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